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Report: FBI Helped Warren Weinstein's Family Pay Ransom to Al Qaeda

This image made from video released anonymously to reporters in Pakistan on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013, which is consistent with other AP reporting, shows Warren Weinstein, a 72-year-old American development worker who was kidnapped in Pakistan by al-Qaida in 2011. The White House says Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian held by the terror organization since 2012, were inadvertently killed during U.S. counterterrorism operations in a border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan in January 2015. In addition, the U.S. believes that two Americans who were working with al-Qaida were also killed. (AP Photo via AP video, File)

The FBI helped facilitate a ransom payment from Warren Weinstein's family to Al Qaeda to try to win the abducted aid worker's release in 2012, despite longstanding U.S. policy against paying ransom for hostages, the Wall Street Journal reported:

[T]he FBI vetted a Pakistani middleman used by the family to transport the money and provided other intelligence to enable an exchange, actions that some senior U.S. officials said encouraged the family to go ahead with the transaction.

[...]

U.S. officials said the agents didn’t directly authorize or approve the ransom payment, and thus didn’t violate U.S. hostage policy. Instead, the agents decided to help the Weinsteins once they concluded family members had made up their minds to proceed, said officials involved in the case. U.S. officials said they provided the information in part to protect the family.

This image made from video released anonymously to reporters in Pakistan on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013, which is consistent with other AP reporting, shows Warren Weinstein, a 72-year-old American development worker who was kidnapped in Pakistan by al-Qaida in 2011. The White House says Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian held by the terror organization since 2012, were inadvertently killed during U.S. counterterrorism operations in a border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan in January 2015. (AP Photo via AP video, File)

The White House announced last week that Weinstein, of Maryland, and Italian national Giovanni Lo Porto were accidentally killed in a U.S. counterterrorism strike on an Al Qaeda compound in January. Weinstein was kidnapped in Pakistan in 2011 while working as an economic development adviser.

More from the Journal:

According to senior U.S. officials briefed on the 2012 payment, FBI agents examined the background of the Pakistani interlocutor who was supposed to take the $250,000 payment to militants holding Mr. Weinstein.

After reviewing U.S. intelligence, the FBI told the family the intermediary appeared to be legitimate and not part of a scam to steal the family’s money, these officials said.

U.S. officials said the family was particularly encouraged by the ransom option when the FBI said it was probably the best chance to win Mr. Weinstein’s release, describing it as the least bad of the unattractive options available, according to officials briefed on the discussions. At the same time, they told the family al Qaeda might not release Mr. Weinstein even if it received the money, according to the officials.

Asked about the Wall Street Journal report, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that it continues to be U.S. policy not to negotiate with terrorists, at the risk of putting Americans in further danger. He referred additional questions to the FBI.

In a statement after her husband's death was announced, Elaine Weinstein thanked "specific officials" in the FBI for trying to bring her husband home, but said “the assistance we received from other elements of the U.S. government was inconsistent and disappointing over the course of three and a half years."

Read more at the Wall Street Journal.

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